Gloves for Chemical or Biological Hazards

Appropriate gloves should ideally be worn whenever any hazardous materials are manipulated by hand. They must be worn whenever there is the possibility of hand contact with any materials that are classified under the GHS system as:

  • Acute toxicity-Dermal Categories 1, 2 or 3
  • Skin Corrosion Categories 1A, 1B or 1C
  • Sensitization-Skin Categories 1A or 1B
  • Germ Cell Mutagenicity Categories 1A or 1B through a dermal route of exposure
  • Carcinogenicity Categories 1A or 1B through a dermal route of exposure
  • Toxic to Reproduction Categories 1A or 1B through a dermal route of exposure
  • Specific Target Organ Toxicity Category 1, single or prolonged exposure through a dermal route of exposure

To select appropriate gloves for chemical protection:

  1. Identify the hazards:
    • Type of chemicals handled
    • pH
    • Toxicity
    • Solvent permeation ability of glove material
  2. Determine the duration and nature of contact
    • Is contact incidental, such as accidental spills or splashes, accidental overspray from a dispensing device, handling infectious agents that require barrier protection, or to prevent contamination of materials during handling?
      • Disposable, surgical-type gloves, such as disposable nitrile gloves, are appropriate for incidental contact. Latex gloves are not allowed for use in labs.  Depending on the specific material being handled, material other than nitrile may be necessary.  Some materials can readily permeate nitrile gloves.

        Tips for disposable gloves:

        • Use a new pair of disposable gloves each time you begin work. Never wash or reuse disposable gloves.
        • Remove and replace gloves immediately with new ones when they become contaminated with chemicals.
        • Always remove gloves before leaving the labs.
        • Always wash your hands after removing you gloves.
        • It’s not common, but possible that disposable gloves may cause sensitivity. Please check the Glove Related Contact Reaction fact sheet ( for more information.
    • Extended contact includes a high probability for repeated incidental contact or submerging hands in a chemical or other hazardous substance.  Extended contact times require the use of specialized gloves.  Note that it is always preferred to reduce the contact time when possible.  For example, tongs can be used to manipulate items in baths instead of submerging gloved hands.  Materials that are highly toxic or readily permeate many glove materials should also be handled with specialized gloves.
      • Silver Shield/Norfoil gloves are generally recommended for highly toxic materials and materials that are readily absorbed through the skin.  These gloves afford excellent protection from most chemicals and can be worn underneath exam grade gloves to ensure good fit and preserve dexterity.
  3. Consult the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for appropriate glove type for use with specific hazardous materials.  Section 8, Exposure controls and personal protection, will list any manufacturer recommendations for glove type and thickness.  See the example in the picture.
  4. Consider Glove permeation, penetration and degradation:
  5. If your hands sweat while wearing gloves and you experience irritation, consider wearing glove liners

    • Glove Liners deliver a comfortable barrier that prevents skin irritation without diminishing tactile sensitivity. 
    • They reduce perspiration and wick away moisture during extended use of disposable or reusable gloves.
    • Some glove liners can provide cut resistant protection as well.